Guest Suites at the Clore – ROH, York Minster and the Barbican Theatre, Plymouth

March 17, 2012

Guesting in Jacky Lansley’s new work composed, in a sense, in dialogue with the Bach Cello Suites – the first three – with additional Suite Inserts by Jonathan Eato (and with recorded elements of Pablo Casals’ twentieth century “rediscovery” of the suites) has been a stirring and artistically tantalising experience. On the one hand, there is a precision that – for the dancer – must be found … a kind of simplicity and finesse that does not blur line or tempo but places it honestly, succinctly and, on the other, moving with the music (and because of the presence of Audrey Riley’s vivid, visceral playing and the physical boldness of dancing itself) has the effect of creating a need for a soulfulness – anew – at each performance.

Even before considering the experience of Jacky’s choreography with its sophisticated interlacing of modernist shape and angle, geometric spatial patterning, idiosyncratic gestural language, refined referencing of dance forms and innate theatricality – the music – in the various forms that it has emerged throughout the experience of process and production – evokes a fluid exchange between a certain constancy in its form – a deep and sustained voice – and the tapestry of melodic and rhythmic variation that works in and around that voice. The music itself is in dialogue.

Enter: dance! For me, and working with dancers younger and older than myself, guided and choreographed by an artist who selects her cast and what they asked to do astutely, I felt that I was invited to be who I am – kind of walking in from what has been left behind – with a feeling of where I am going next. There is a visit a-foot. I danced three minuets. The social exchange of the first with the beautiful Huri Murphy – poised between decorum and intrigue; the second with cellist Audrey Riley set to the blues of Jonathan’s  plain-chant – intense and open-ended; the third – no more than a whisper of a minuet – a single tour – moving around the floor with  the accompaniment of a solitary low tone – in homage to Merce Cunnigham in later years – circling the stage and illuminating, perhaps illuminating (at least in my dancer’s mind’s eye) a sort of duet between the dance and the music (as was so eloquently achieved by Cunningham and Cage) embodied within the last gigue of the third suite: a final collage – mysterious, on-going, dialogical,

Each of the venues set its own mark too: the Clore at the ROH – lab-like, open-studied, London-nervy; the Minster – stone-gargoyled, immense, dark and four-dimensional; the Barbican in Plymouth – beautifully lit, contained, curated and community-enhanced (indeed, enhanced with nine fine performances from southwest-based dancers spanning five generations). Then, we had our audience. As my friend, Tamar Valley-based artist, Jo insightfully observed – the door was opened and we performers and audience passed through it to each other’s world. And we danced together.

The metaphor of the open door is a good one. Even if not everyone achieved the sense of pleasure that was undoubtedly experienced by the majority, I have an abiding feeling that as people passed literally and imaginatively between stage and stalls, between their responses to the sensations of sound and the effects of motion and vision and (and touch) and from the starting point of expectation to the outcome of experience, the invitation to share in Guest Suites is one, as a company, I believe we can feel proud of having made.

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